Evoking and tracking zebrafish eye movement in multiple larvae with ZebEyeTrack

Nat Protoc. 2018 Jul;13(7):1539-1568. doi: 10.1038/s41596-018-0002-0.


Reliable measurement of spontaneous and evoked eye movement is critical for behavioral vision research. Zebrafish are increasingly used as a model organism for visual neural circuits, but ready-to-use eye-tracking solutions are scarce. Here, we present a protocol for automated real-time measurement of angular horizontal eye position in up to six immobilized larval fish using a custom-built LabVIEW-based software, ZebEyeTrack. We provide its customizable source code, as well as a streamlined and compiled version, ZebEyeTrack Light. The full version of ZebEyeTrack controls all required hardware and synchronizes six essential aspects of the experiment: (i) stimulus design; (ii) visual stimulation with moving bars; (ii) eye detection and tracking, as well as general motion detection; (iv) real-time analysis; (v) eye-position-dependent closed-loop event control; and (vi) recording of external event times. This includes optional integration with external hardware such as lasers and scanning microscopes. Once installation is complete, experiments, including stimulus design, can be completed in <10 min, and recordings can last anywhere between seconds and many hours. Results include digitized angular eye positions and hardware status, which can be used to compute tuning curves, optokinetic gain, and other custom data analysis. After the experiment, or based on existing videos, optokinetic response (OKR) performance can be analyzed semi-automatically via the graphical user interface, and results can be exported. ZebEyeTrack has been used successfully for psychophysics experiments, for optogenetic stimulation, and in combination with calcium imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Automation, Laboratory / methods
  • Eye Movements*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Larva / physiology
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Software
  • Zebrafish / physiology*